NDSU Extension Service - Ramsey County


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Co-Parenting after Divorce

Co-Parenting after Divorce

            Each year divorce impacts millions of lives in the U.S., from young children to adults whose parents divorced decades ago. Because children can be caught in the middle of post-divorce conflict for years, parents need to understand what impact their behavior has on children.

            Children need to be loved by both parents
Popular media and educational resources in the past focused on issues related to "single parenting" and "custodial parenting," but the times have changed and family life professionals and researchers now acknowledge that, in most cases, maintaining a relationship with both parents is vitally important to a child's development and well-being throughout his/her lifetime. Current research and parenting resources now emphasize "co-parenting" as well as the unique challenges of being a "residential" or "non-residential" parent.

            Focus on children instead of ex-spouse
To enable children to maintain a strong relationship with both parents following divorce, parents must learn to co-parent in a way that fosters children being able to comfortably communicate with, visit or live with each parent at various times. Focusing on the needs of the children rather than on one's ex-partner is typically the best way to accomplish this. A workable relationship is one that involves both parents negotiating the day-to-day, month-to-month, and year-to-year needs of their children. Many people effectively deal with difficult situations in the workplace, using negotiation and teamwork skills, yet neglect to utilize these same skills with their ex-spouse.

            Post-divorce conflict negatively impacts children
A major stressor for children is persistent conflict between parents following divorce. Because divorcing parents may use their children to manipulate and/or control each other around a variety of personal, social, and financial issues, it is not uncommon to see an increase in children's risk factors for behavior problems, depression, delinquency, substance abuse, teen pregnancy, school failure and dropout and suicide. Parents who express their rage toward their former spouse by asking children to carry hostile messages, by downgrading the other parent in front of the child, or by prohibiting mention of the other parent in their presence are creating stress and loyalty conflicts in their children.

            Working together helps children adjust to divorce
Because children look to their parents for signs that the family can and will get through this difficult period in their lives, divorced parents who work together are more successful at meeting their children's short and long-term needs. Divorce can be very frustrating and painful, but both parent's number one goal should be to shelter their children from post-divorce conflict. Being mindful of their children's needs will ensure a more successful adjustment to the divorce and the changes the family is experiencing.

            For more info on supporting your child following a divorce, consider attending the “Parents Forever” class offered by the NDSU Extension Service here in Ramsey County. Call our office at #662-7027 for more details and to pre-register.


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